“When life gives you lemons… make lemonade.”
It’s supposed to be inspirational! Uplifting! Make something sweet out of something sour, right?
To me, it’s actually pretty depressing.
The idea, of course, is that life is some sort of Ultimate Evil Force (yes, capital letters required) that hands us sour packages where we have the choice to turn them into something sweet. That’s it. We can’t change what life gives us. We can let the lemons bury us, we can find sugar and work furiously to make lemonade, or we can just stop living, because then we won’t be getting any more lemons.
To me, the sentiment of “making lemonade” stinks worse than my ex’s hockey bag. And there is no stench known to man that is worse than a hockey bag after a few weeks of use.
Instead, I’m rather fond of Cave Johnson’s theory on life’s lemons:
“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!” (copyright to Valve’s Portal 2, edited for sensitive content)
So, Cave Johnson’s craziness aside, the idea behind his theory is that nothing (not even the cancer that was killing him) is worth “taking” from life.
Life isn’t some mysterious force that shoves lemons down our throats.
Life is the thing we do – live.
So, I can hear the questions now. “But Kristen, what do I do with these lemons? Should I be burning down houses?” Aaaaaaand let me stop you there. These negative events that life “gives” us aren’t the end-all-be-all. These “lemons” can be used in a positive way, no sweetener needed!
We are writers, aren’t we?
The answer is yes. And as writers, we need to tap into emotion to make our stories the strongest they can be. By turning our negative events into fuel, we’ll be able to drop combustible lemons filled with emotions on our unsuspecting readers.
It’s the ultimate “write what you know”!
Did you fall on the ice last winter and break your foot? Now you know the levels of pain and can accurately describe it and the (lengthy) recovery process. Lost someone recently (say sorry)? You can mimic those levels of loss and anguish in a character. Recently loved and lost? FEELS, man, FEELS.
Don’t let life’s lemons bury you. Don’t try to make something sweet out of something sour.
Instead, turn the lemons into power that you use against your readers. It’ll make your writing all the sweeter to read.